Every Breath You Take
His feet pounded through the undergrowth of the woods. It wasn't particularly thick at that time of year. It was too early for the twining green branches of the vines and roots, and too late for the half rotted detritus of the fall and winter. But for the purpose of his run it could have been described as a beautiful spring morning workout, sadly the reality was that it was anything but that.
She'd been missing for almost forty-eight hours when the note had arrived at his hotel room. Not that he'd been sitting idle waiting for it, but when all the leads he had, hadn't panned out, he'd returned to his hotel room (the one they were supposed to be sharing) to shower and change clothes, hoping that something else would reveal itself in the deprivation of the steam and quiet. It had, just not in the blatant manner that he had expected.
He'd last seen her in a blue gown, not in person mind you, in the security footage of the CC camera system of the casino, being led, none too gently off the floor, out to a service entrance, and then a loading dock, presumably into some kind of vehicle waiting just out of sight of the camera's eye. After he had watched it over several times, Agent N had spent about five minutes cursing her stupidity at getting into that situation, then about five minutes berating himself for thinking that way about her, and then the last forty two hours (give or take) trying to figure out where she'd been taken, and to what end. It should have been a simple mission, gambling, private games, high stakes, an almost insulting task for someone at his level of excellence, and but for the international drug connection, it would have been.
She was a junior agent, out on her first covert op, her innocence had been nearly the perfect cover, and hence her selection: because of all that she didn't have a great deal of intelligence that could be passed on to her captors, if that was why they had taken her in the first place. But because she was so junior, N felt an inordinate amount of guilt at having let her be captured. That, and the memories of the loss of two other partners, L and P, drove him to go without adequate rest in his search for her. It wasn't that he feared a reprimand for her capture, agents in their line of work met untimely ends quite often; he himself had been close to death on numerous occasions, rescued by his own wits, or astounding luck most of the time. For that reason he had a reputation, and for some other reason he chose not to ruminate on, people still wanted to work with him; and though he tried to raise the objection with his handlers, a companion made the necessary subterfuge all that much more believable. Not that everyone he worked with ended up dead, but L and P, well, he'd gotten close to them before the end, and it had hurt (not that he showed it) to lose them. P especially, he'd gotten in too deep with her, and it had been a hard learned lesson when he'd seen her body, bullet hole in her head, stippling demonstrating just how close her killer had been to her when he took the shot. Since that one he had worked very hard to keep it professional. But this S, she'd been just so young, (he cursed himself inwardly for referring to her in the past tense), so eager to learn, and to please, and he felt at times far more like a mentor to her than anything else, hence the responsibility for her abduction.
He'd been given GPS coordinates on the note and nothing else. It hadn't been hard to sort out their meaning. N had chosen not to share the information with his handlers immediately, just in case it was a trap for him, which he suspected it was. It was the nobility he lived by, not to draw anyone else into the line of fire if it wasn't necessary. As he ran through the woods though, he didn't sense anyone around him, and he had a sixth sense for that kind of thing, as if he could almost hear a heartbeat or a breath. No snipers waiting, it was only she at the point he'd been given, crumpled, blue gown still on her body, the crystals on the bodice now catching the sunlight as it rose and filtered through the treetops. At that point he pulled out his phone and made the call.
"S!" He yelled, as he stopped suddenly just before her form, feet sinking a little deeper into the dirt of the forest floor with the force of his halted footfall. "S! Are you okay?"
He knew it was a ridiculous question, but really it had been the first thing to roll off his tongue. Of course she wasn't okay. Her lower left leg was bent at an odd angle, mid shaft so he knew it was broken, the bodice of her gown was stained with blood, some black, some red, so N knew that there had been a series of assaults against her over the time she had been missing. He crashed to the ground beside her, his knees raising up motes of dust that fogged the air close to the ground for a moment. His phone, pressed to his ear was ringing, and when it was answered he barked orders into it without even waiting to find out who had picked up.
"I need a med team at my location, now!" N knew that the GPS in his phone was monitored constantly, he was a valuable asset, not one they let out of their sight easily. He pressed his free hand to her throat, fingers searching for a pulse and he forced himself to quiet his own breathing for a moment while he listened, barely hearing a bubbling gasp to accompany the thready beat against his fingertips.
"She's got a chest wound, lung's punctured." He spoke to the anonymous person on the other end of the line. His free hand moved to the hem of the ruined dress, pulling it up over her twisted leg. He inwardly thanked his God that the fracture, however bad it was within, had not broken through the skin, even though the bruising was fierce. "Left lower leg has a closed fracture, probably both the tibia and fibula." A knowledge of basic anatomy was mandatory study at the academy, that and trauma, which was how N had understood the sucking sound of the chest wound to have indicated the punctured lung. He moved around her motionless body to see her face, drawing back the long blond hair that had fallen over it, and was immediately struck by the fact that it remained perfect. He had expected to see the same sort of damage as on the rest of her; bruising on her arms, scratches on her hands, the blood staining skin and fabric. But it was untouched, and except for the tussled hair and tearstains, it seemed that whoever her abductors, they had chosen to leave her face alone. That tactic struck him as cruel instead of kind. Her features were contorted with the pain that had obviously taken her consciousness, but otherwise she was just as lovely as the vision he'd had of her as he had waited for her to rejoin him at the Blackjack table. She'd forgotten her phone in the room and had gone back to retrieve it, he should have never let her go alone. But he'd been playing his part, just as she had been playing hers. He had no idea they'd been made, and he hadn't even taken the time to consider how it had happened, he'd been so obsessed with the search.
His phone forgotten, still engaged in his hand, he brushed his fingers over her cheek, still soft, and wondered why they had left her like this? So it would be more painful for him to see her beauty along with the remnants of the torture he had been unable to prevent?
"S?" He whispered. "Talk to me."
Eyes fluttered, then winced with pain, arms moved and hands curled into fists.
"Sir?" The one word betrayed every agony she was feeling as she forced it past her lips.
"I'm here S, and the team is coming, just hold on for me." He tried to be comforting, but it came out far too professional as he heard his own voice.
"I'm dying sir." Her voice was as thin as her pulse.
"You most certainly are not." N forced his voice to be assertive. He reached down for her hand and gently coaxed it into relaxing in his larger one. "The team is coming for you. They'll get you out of here and to a proper hospital, you will be all right."
"I don't think so Sir." She coughed a little and then winced again, throwing her other arm over her chest and hanging on tightly. A tear squeezed from closed lids and ran down her cheek sideways as she lay against the dirt. "I've lost a lot of blood." She took another shallow breath. N could tell how much it hurt her to do it, evidenced by more than just her clipped sentences.
"I just want you to know." Another breath, "I didn't tell them anything."
"Of course not." N smiled down at her indulgently. It didn't actually surprise him that she was still trying to please him.
"I didn't." She put more force into that statement.
"I know you didn't." He let a hand brush over her skin, it was becoming clammy and that worried him.
"I need to ask you something Sir." Her eyes remained closed.
"Anything." Her voice was fading and N looked backwards, the way he had come, as if by doing so he could will the med team into arriving.
"My Gran's birthday is in two weeks." Breath, "There's a card and some pictures in my desk for her." Breath, "Could you post them for me? I don't want her to think I forgot about her."
"I promise." N could feel his own heart starting to race even as her pulse began to slow. She was going to die right in front of him and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it.
"One other thing?" Her voice grew fainter.
"Yes?" He leaned in to her, to make certain he didn't miss the request.
"Stay with me here, please. I don't want to die alone."
He didn't answer immediately as a shudder ran through him. He only brushed his lips over her forehead, now quite cold and pale.
"Of course." He whispered. There was a flicker of a smile on her face and then nothing. N looked up and around, straining to hear the team, finally feeling the thumping footfalls vibrating though the ground. They were coming at full steam and he hoped that it would prove to be in time. "They're coming S." He received no response as he realized that he had not even ever asked her real name.